WTA St. Petersburg: Kristina Mladenovic wins first title overcoming Yulia Putintseva in a thriller

WTA St. Petersburg: Kristina Mladenovic wins first title overcoming Yulia Putintseva in a thriller

It was a 3-set battle between both players vying for their first WTA title and in the end, it was the Frenchwoman who came through in a 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-4 victory.

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Pavitra Ganesan

In a heavily-packed field of players in St. Petersburg, the finals came down to two unseeded players looking for their first ever WTA title. Kristina Mladenovic, contesting in her fourth final, had been impressive all week taking out the likes of Venus Williams and defending champion Roberta Vinci. Yulia Putintseva topped that beating two top 10 players en route to her first-ever final.

With the right to claim their first singles’ title at stake, it was the Frenchwoman who made a blistering start. After a nervy first game, she picked it up hammering winners from all sides to grab the first set. Such was her performance that Putintseva struggled to make a breakthrough and it was looking like Mladenovic was going to wrap up a straight sets victory. However, nerves got the better of her allowing the Kazakh to climb back from a 2-5 deficit to force the decider. In the decider, the Frenchwoman took the lead and this time took control of her nerves and served it out for her first ever title.

Mladenovic powers her way through the first set

The Frenchwoman served to start the match and her nerves were showing as she struggled to hold serve. In the end, she needed almost 11 minutes saving a couple of break points in the process before eventually holding serve. That hold calmed her nerves as she found her range hitting a couple of big returns and Mladenovic found herself with a break point. The Frenchwoman immediately capitalized to lead 2-0 and followed it up with a stunning hold filled with winners to extend her lead to 3-0.

Mladenovic was ripping thunderous winners | Photo: Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Mladenovic was ripping thunderous winners | Photo: Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Putintseva did eventually get on the board and tried to stay in touch but Mladenovic was cruising. The Frenchwoman’s service games were only getting better as the match progressed and with a couple of aces she came up with a love hold for a staggering 5-2 lead. The pressure was back on the Kazakh though who had to serve to stay in the set. Mladenovic hammered a forehand winner and set up set point. Putintseva managed to fend off but Mladenovic was relentlessly blasting big returns and the Kazakh finally caved in sending her shot long as the Frenchwoman wrapped up the first set 6-2 on her third set point.

Mladenovic wins first set in commanding first set | Photo: Mike Kireev/NurPhotos via Getty Images
Mladenovic wins first set in commanding first set | Photo: Mike Kireev/NurPhotos via Getty Images

Nerves get the better of the Frenchwoman as Putintseva fights back

The set started off with service holds until the fourth game where a failed slice attempt gave Mladenovic with the chance to break but Putintseva eventually came through with a huge hold to level for 2-2. The missed opportunity almost come back to haunt the Frenchwoman though as Putintseva was putting in some great shots and one such glorious pass gave the Kazakh double break points. Mladenovic, however, was calm as ever saving both of those with her big serve and shot-making to evade the danger and nosed ahead 3-2.

Putintseva tries to find a way through | Photo: Mike Khireev/NurPhotos via Getty Images
Putintseva tries to find a way through | Photo: Mike Khireev/NurPhotos via Getty Images

The Kazakh’s serve was once again in trouble and Mladenovic took advantage to gain the break for 4-2. What looked like an easy hold then became difficult as the Frenchwoman hit some cheap errors in the following game but hung on and came up with a superb drop volley to race ahead to 5-2.

Mladenovic gets closer to the finish line | Photo: Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Mladenovic gets closer to the finish line | Photo: Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Putintseva then held her serve and it was up to Mladenovic to serve for the title. The Kazakh was pushing the Frenchwoman and a passing shot gave her double break back points. Mladenovic could only defend one before nerves got in the way causing her to hit a double fault. With the break, momentum shifted the way of the Kazakh, and Putintseva leveled for 5-5. The Frenchwoman whose forehand had been on fire all match long started to fail and Putintseva took advantage of the errors to break for 6-5. Mladenovic though continued playing her game mixing it up with smart approach play and broke right back to send the set to a tiebreak.

Mladenovic fights back to force the tiebreak | Photo: Mike Khireev/NurPhotos via Getty Images
Mladenovic fights back to force the tiebreak | Photo: Mike Khireev/NurPhotos via Getty Images

The tiebreak saw both players struggle to win points on serve before Putintseva took control and raced to 4-2. Errors were trickling from the Frenchwoman and an unfortunate double fault gave the Kazakh triple set points. Putintseva only needed one though snatching the second set and causing the crowd to go wild.

Putintseva roars back to snatch the second set | Photo: Mike Khireev/NurPhotos via Getty Images
Putintseva roars back to snatch the second set | Photo: Mike Khireev/NurPhotos via Getty Images

Mladenovic steadies the ship and seals the win

After a bathroom break, Mladenovic looked as composed as ever and was rewarded with an immediate break. However, she almost gave it right back with an error-strewn game handing Putintseva with triple break points. The Frenchwoman, however, came up with some big serves and wonderful play to save all three for a clutch hold to consolidate the break. The Kazakh got on board but Mladenovic was finding her groove once again and her net play causing Putintseva all sorts of trouble and she earned the double break to go 4-1 up.

Mladenovic takes control and earns the insurance break | Photo: Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Mladenovic takes control and earns the insurance break | Photo: Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Frenchwoman held her game with ease and soon had the opportunity to close out the match at 5-2. It was another topsy-turvy nerve-wrecking game as she had three championship points but could not take any of it and instead Putintseva sensing the nerves broke to get one of the breaks back. As the Kazakh held her serve for 4-5, Mladenovic had another chance to serve for the title. This time she was more composed and set up double championship points. Putintseva fired a huge return to save the first and her fourth but the Frenchwoman was determined and with her 62nd winner of the match converted the championship point to seal the victory.

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